I usually don't eat a lot of Japanese food in Hong Kong because J and I go to Japan pretty often, but when I heard that Godenya - a sake pairing restaurant - may be the hardest restaurant to book in HK, I was intrigued and set out to make a reservation on its website. You need a code to make enter the reservation page (hint: it's on their Facebook page) and true enough, the restaurant was all booked up 2 months in advance already. I decided to waitlist for some of the dates that doesn't look as full and we lucked out on a last minute cancellation when I got an email notifying us of the availability of 2 counter seats last week. The restaurant was hard to find as well because even though the address says it's on Wellington Street, the entrance is actually in an obscure alley on Kau U Fong with almost no signage except for a tiny white plaque with the restaurant name written in Japanese.
We slid the wooden door sideways to enter the cozy restaurant which only has 6 counter seats and a table for 2 plus a private room which can fit up to 8 people. The decor was very minimalistic with bare concrete walls and wooden furnishings, and standing behind the counter was the owner and sake master Goshima Shinya who would be taking care of us for the night. Only a set menu of 9 courses and 7 sake pairing is available here for $1500 per person and the food is described as a fusion of Japanese and Cantonese cuisine which is prepared by Goshima-san's younger brother.
At one end of the counter were Goshima-san's tools where he can serve his sake at precise temperatures by using thermometers to measure the alcohol before serving. We noticed that the sake he serves were not from famous sake regions like Niigata and Goshima-san explained that he likes to discover sake from small producers so he can age them himself to develop an unique taste.
The first course was Peach, Glass Shrimp, Soy Milk with a layer of soy milk panna cotta topped with Japanese glass shrimp and two pieces of peach which are in season now. I liked the sweetness of the peaches but the panna cotta didn't have much flavor so the whole dish came off as a bit bland.
The first sake pairing was a sparkling sake Hanatome (Nara) Yamahai Junmai Ginjyo Nama 2016 served at 12°C.
The Rock Oyster, Seaweed was better as the oyster wasn't too briny while I enjoyed the seaweed sauce on the side. Usually oysters grow at the surface but the rock oyster here came from the deep sea around the Mie prefecture.
Chotin (Aichi) Junmai Gingyo Nama 2016 served at 15°C.
The Abalone, Liver, Rice was probably the best dish of the night with a tasty risotto that had been cooked with cheese, mushrooms and pine nuts. The best part was the rich abalone liver sauce that tied everything in this dish together.
Sogen (Ishikawa) Junmai Nama 2015 served at 43°C.
The Katsuo (bonito), Roe, Iberico Ham, Beets, Black Olive was a disappointing dish though as the beetroot sauce was way too sour and overpowered any flavor of the other ingredients.
Kazennomori (Nara) Junmai Nama 80% 2016 served at 12°C.
The Kyoto Eggplant, Morel Mushrooms, Lobster Bisque was promising as I liked the flavor combination but it would have been better of the lobster bisque was stronger.
Tenyurin (Mie) Junmai 2004 served at 48°C.
The Lamb, Manganji Pepper, Blue Cheese was a bold combination with Okinawan bitter melon but personally I am not a fan of blue cheese so I didn't really enjoy the sauce here.
Taenohana (Mie) Kimoto Junmai Nama 90% 2016 served at 18°C.
The Wild Ayu arrived in a bamboo steamer and was the only dish of the night that really integrated Japanese and Cantonese cuisine together by steaming the popular Japanese fish with oil and soy sauce. The fish had a lot of tiny bones which made it hard to eat - maybe there is a reason why ayu is usually grilled in Japan - while the soy sauce wasn't rich enough at all like the ones used in Cantonese cooking so the dish ended up neither here or there in my opinion.
Our last sake pairing of the night with Bongu (Saitama) Junmai Gingyo 2012 served 47°C. Interesting tidbit about the name of the sake which means common fool in Chinese so we asked Goshima-san about the name. He was surprised that we knew what the word meant because the kanji meaning fool is hardly used in Japanese anymore. As opposed to common fool, the name actually means "unique fool" in Japanese.
The Crude Wheat (Brown Wheat) Udon, Mussels Soup was enjoyable as the soup was deliciously sweet and flavorful from the shellfish.
The last course and dessert was the Black Cherry, Pistachio, Sake with pistachio ice cream and frozen sake on top. It was nice to come full circle by having sake as part of our dessert but I wasn't sure if the flavors worked as the sake was a bit bitter.
Verdict - I wasn't too impressed with the food at Godenya to be honest but I think the sake pairing is quite unique and certainly a great experience for those who love sake.
182 Wellington Street, Central
Tel: +852 6713 5917http://www.godenya.com/about_us.php?lang=eng
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